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No change for advisory committees

DEL MAR — A proposal meant to help make the citizens advisory committees more efficient was viewed by some as alienating, disrespectful and an attempt to undermine their independence.

So council members opted at the Sept. 3 meeting not to change the way the groups’ leaders are selected.

The recommendation came from Councilman Al Corti, who like his colleagues, serves as a liaison on several of the city’s standing and ad hoc committees. Corti said he noticed some groups are “run like a machine,” while others lag in simple administrative duties such as getting agendas out.

After discussing the problems with city staff, Corti said he thought it would be helpful if City Council appointed chairmen, chairwomen, co-chairmen and co-chairwomen.

The change was one of three proposed amendments to the Policy Book, which guides how council conducts business.

Dwight Worden, a former Del Mar city attorney who will be sworn in as a council member in December, was among the half dozen residents who expressed opposition to the change.

In an email to the city, Worden stated that appointing committee leaders “gives the wrong message that the council may not want vigorous, independent committees.”

“The change may also create a community impression, accurate or not, that the independence of the committees has been degraded,” he wrote.

He noted it could also create problems if a chairman or chairwoman steps down in the middle of his or her term or if the leader does not agree with the majority but can’t be removed.

“And, there is no getting around the fact that a council appointed chair will appear to have more power … which could be manifested in control of the agenda, who speaks and how often, or in other ways not conducive to committee cooperation and productive work,” Worden added.

Resident Clair McGreal wrote in an email that the change might cause people to become more reluctant to join the committees.

“I appears that it is already quite difficult to fill vacancies in some of the committees, and this may exacerbate that difficulty,” McGreal wrote.

Jan McMillan, speaking to council at the Sept. 3 meeting, said committees are made up of educated adults who are volunteering their time and talents.

“We’re not back in kindergarten where the teacher chooses the leaders,” McMillan said. “Please give them the respect they deserve by reserving their right to select” their own leaders.

Bill Michalsky said the change would be like “tying strings to them and pulling them around like puppeteers.”

“Let them be their own guides,” he said. “If they’re doing something wrong I think you’ll let them know.”

Council members agreed with the public comments. Corti said although the proposal was being perceived as “usurping power … that was not the intent.”

With a unanimous vote, council decided to leave unchanged the policy of committee members selecting their leaders.

They also agreed each committee should be required to have a vice chairman or vice chairwoman. Additionally, a new policy will be added that requires all new committee members to come to a council meeting to introduce themselves.

Historically, City Council interviewed all committee applicants and voted on their appointments during a regularly scheduled meeting. In recent years that practice has fallen by the wayside as the number of applicants often equals the number of vacancies.

“When we find a willing volunteer there’s a real incentive to move quickly and get them on the committee,” Councilman Don Mosier said.

In other news, council agreed to decrease the permit fees for the Bike MS fundraiser from $2,000 to $200 as long as the Multiple Sclerosis Society agrees to reroute the event so it doesn’t run along Coast Boulevard.

Approximately 2,000 cyclists are expected to ride through the city between 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Oct. 19, but they will ride according to state bike laws. There will be no street closures.

Resident Nancy Stoke told city officials she had a problem with the race going through the residential area along Coast Boulevard because a relay that used that route in April resulted in four hours of noise beginning at 6 a.m. on a Saturday.

The $200 will allow the city to recover all administrative costs. An MS representative said about 25 people in Del Mar have MS, while about 450, including family members and friends, are affected by the disease.